Family, community connect pioneer days to modern ways at Prov Fair

PROVIDENCE BAY—The progression from pioneer days to modern ways had special meaning as the theme for this year’s Providence Bay Fair, held this past weekend in a blended virtual and socially distanced format, as the 137-year-old celebration highlighted the age-old values of family and community using 21st-century technologies.

“The community support has just been amazing. Nothing here would work if nobody showed up or helped to bring it all together,” said Dawn Dawson, secretary/treasurer of the Providence Bay Agricultural Society, at the conclusion of the last in-person event on Sunday afternoon.

Organizers transitioned many of the fair’s longer-standing traditions into virtual events for this year to accommodate public health guidelines.

Exhibit hall entries appeared on the Providence Bay Fair website rather than the physical hall on Friday afternoon, August 21.

A new subcategory in the arts and crafts division focused on new skills learned during COVID-19. Marian Hester took top spot for a matching face mask and a headband with an outline of Manitoulin Island stitched into its front. Other entries included painting, yarn creations, haircutting and table-making.

Jo-Ann Carlisle cooked the competition in every food-related subcategory except for the ‘most epic baking fail,’ won by Evelyn Russell-Baehr.

There was a long list of winners in each of the junior divisions. Age six and under junior fair ambassador Owen MacKelvie netted nine ribbons, including one in first place and one in second; older brother Shawn MacKelvie earned the ages seven to 10 junior fair ambassador title after winning eight ribbons, including three first-place finishes and two second-place titles, and ages 11-15 junior fair ambassador Camryn George took home six ribbons, five first-place finishes and one second-place award.

Later that evening, the event kicked off in earnest with kids’ farm bingo and traditional bingo, the latter of which also featured opening remarks. Returning ambassador Avery Sheppard hosted the virtual events alongside former ambassadors Rebecca Dawson and Michelle Campbell. The live streams grew strong praise in the comments section.

During the kids’ bingo, Island children showed off their pets and farm animals in pre-recorded videos. For the traditional bingo, guest speakers welcomed viewers into Prov Fair Weekend while calling numbers for those playing along at home.

Featured speakers included Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens, Providence Bay Agricultural Society president Jack White, MP Carol Hughes, MPP Mike Mantha, OPP community services officer Marie Ford and a list of business owners and fair executives.

Adam’s Sunflower Challenge, sponsored by the family of the late Adam McDonald, saw Faye Becks win the overall display category while Samantha Cooper’s sunflower stretched the tallest, measuring a towering 11 feet, nine inches in height.

Lyle and Sharon Dewar won first place in the hay bale structure competition and the Duxbury family won for their front yard display.

On Saturday morning, attendees had the opportunity to drive through a parade, rather than the conventional model of the floats gliding past stationary onlookers. Some 13 floats and classic cars assembled for this event, including Prov Fair favourite The Islanders band, which set up atop a flatbed float within the fairgrounds.

The Lyle Dewar ‘Visiting Grandma’ float took first place and Ken Bulmer’s 1941 Plymouth won the vintage automobile division.

Later that evening, Horizon Drive-in brought its portable screen on which patrons could enjoy videos of the fair, including the Manitoulin’s Got Talent entries, followed by a double film feature into the night. Parker Johnston’s piano playing as part of the McDermid family entry earned a first place finish.

The next day, a family amazing race competition saw 17 teams travel around the municipality by following clues shared at each stop. The winners’ announcement took place later that day on Facebook and revealed the victors from both the race and the fair-long family fun trophy.

Donna Foster and family finished first in the race with three game victories and a time of two hours, 25 minutes; the Allison family came second with two game victories and a time of 2:17 and the Dawson family placed third with two top game wins and a time of 2:19.

In the family fun trophy, the Dave McDermid family earned 70 points to secure the top spot, followed by the Noland family with 61 points and the Duxbury family with 57 points.

Full results from the exhibit hall competition and photos from the event are available on the Providence Bay Fair website,, as well as this newspaper’s website,